4.4.08

Best Practice - Build a balanced team

No manager I know would ever build a team of junior, entry-level engineers.

But I know many managers who have built offshore teams of all junior staff.

It's hard not to fall into this trap, particularly if you are building your offshore team in India. The job market there is very hot. People get hired very quickly and the engineering population is on average younger than in America. So it's easy to end up with a team of ten software developers where the oldest among them is 26 or 27 years old, with only 4 or 5 years experience.

This team may seem productive but they will not be experienced. They certainly won't be capable of the kind of autonomy experienced by some of the more senior teams you may have worked with.

This best practice is very simple to describe, but a bit harder to put into action:
  • Don't hire all junior staff for your offshore team. Try to build a team with balanced experience. Typical staffing pyramids might see staff numbers something like this.
    • 12+ years experience: 1 or 2 people
    • 8 to 12 years experience: 2 or 3 people
    • 4 to 8 years experience: 3 or 4 people
    • Under 4 years experience: 3 or 4 people
  • This 10 person team would be well balanced and able to handle jobs requiring experience. This team also has enough critical mass to be able to take on one or more "freshers" straight out of college.
  • In my experience, ignoring the top end of this pyramid will result in a team that has excessive self-confidence, and not enough experience to avoid common pratfalls.
  • If you build a team that is too heavily weighted with junior staff, expect much higher management overhead, with the potential requirement for remote micromanagement (which seldom works).

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